In short turnaround, Kamaal Seymour excelling in transition from defense to offensive tackle
If you had told Kamaal Seymour earlier in the season that he would be the Rutgers football team's starting right tackle entering its matchup with Indiana this Saturday, he wouldn't have believed you.
And for good reason.
For starters, Seymour was the No. 2 defensive tackle recruit in New York coming out of high school and had been a defensive lineman during his the first year-plus of time on the Banks.
While he redshirted as a true freshman, Seymour practiced as a defensive lineman for the entire 2015 season and during the Scarlet Knights' first spring camp under head football coach Chris Ash.
But during summer camp, the Brooklyn native was moved to the other side of the line of scrimmage and converted to an exterior offensive lineman.
"Yeah, anything to help the team," Seymour said on his reaction to being asked to convert to an offensive lineman. "If that's gonna push the team forward or help us get better, I'll do it."
Just a few months after making the move from defensive tackle to arguably the toughest position on the offensive line, Seymour made his first career start in Rutgers' 34-32 loss to Minnesota after senior right tackle J.J. Denman was held out with an injury.
"It's unreal," Seymour said of becoming a starter this soon.
While he had gotten into 3 of the Knights' 4 prior Big Ten games, his start against the Golden Gophers was his first true test at his new position and, for the most part, he passed. In a game that saw Rutgers' offensive line surrender four sacks, Seymour earned praise for his performance from senior captain Darius Hamilton, who said Seymour played an "outstanding game" and is going to be a "special player" postgame.
In his weekly Monday press conference, Ash echoed Hamilton's praise and added that Seymour will be the team's starting right tackle moving forward.
If you're curious as to how Seymour has been able to seamlessly transition to offensive tackle and put a stronghold on the starting spot this soon, look no further than his drive to master his new position.
"Kamaal's made progress every week. Like most of the guys in our group, he's really hungry to learn," said offensive line coach AJ Blazek. "His upside is really high right now. He's a sponge, he comes in for extra meetings all the time ... He's greedy to get better and those are the guys you want to come out, they're not afraid to make a mistake ... Mentally, he's much tougher than you would think just talking to him cause he's a quiet guy."
Sans the quarterback position, which is not only the most important position in football but arguably in all of sports, the most valuable positions in football are on the outside. Powerful offenses are fueled by tackles that can consistently protect the quarterback's blind spots in the pocket and skill players to deliver the ball too.
It's non-coincidental that those two offensive position's counterpoints — defensive end and cornerback, respectively — are also the two most salient groups on the defensive side of the ball.
The Knights are already set up nicely for the present and future at left tackle with sophomore tackle Tariq Cole, who Pro Football Focus graded out as the Big Ten's top rush and pass blocker from the position to this point in the season.
Lining up opposite of Cole on Rutgers' line, Seymour still has development to make in his transition to the position before he reaches the Cole's level of play. For instance, Blazek said, Seymour still has to shake some of his defensive lineman habits.
But considering where he was six months ago, he's off to a great start.
"I actually am really excited about Kamaal and the move he made over to offense," Ash said. "He continues to get better. I think he just needed to get some game reps, which he got against Minnesota. They were productive ones. Be honest with you, I'm really excited about our tackle position, both left tackle and right tackle, for the future. Him and Cole standing next to each other are two good-looking guys. They've got a lot of time to play together and they continue to learn the offense. Excited about Kamaal."